Tuesday, October 04, 2016

All The Way

(Movie Reviews)

The Review
This is another in the series of political historical dramas directed by Jay Roach and produced for HBO.
I absolutely love these films.
I loved Recount, I loved Game Change.  And I loved this film.

In a world where popular entertainment is becoming dumber and dumber, these smart political historical films are a welcome breath of fresh air.
The writing is smart, the history is fascinating, the acting and directing are superb.

Well done guys.  You've hit the ball out of the park once again.

Rating
I've got a few historical nitpicks which I'm going to get to down below, but in spite of some historical inaccuracies, I'm going to go ahead and give this film 10 out of 10.  It was entertaining, and it did a good job of teaching people about an important year in American history.

Historical Nitpicking
As I said in my review of Lincoln, I'm one of those annoying history purists who believe historical films should stay as true to history as possible.  And this is especially true of political dramas.  Movies like Braveheart or Spartacus get more leeway, because the entertainment value comes from the battles and the romance, and not from the history.
Movies that dramatize political maneuverings, however, are only interesting because they are historical.  If none of this had actually happened, no one would be interested in it.

But before I take this movie to task for inaccuracies, I'm going to admit right up front I don't know everything.  Nor did I exhaustively research this movie.  I caught a handful of things, but for anything I'm I'm not informed about, I'm just assuming the movie got it more or less correct.  If anyone out there knows better, let me know in the comments.  If I find out this movie took more historical liberties than I thought, I might be persuaded to bring down my rating.

I read these articles on the historical accuracy here and here.

From the above articles, I learned that John Lewis, not Stokely Carmichael, was head of SNCC during this time.  (This was something that I have to admit I would have completely missed if the above article hadn't pointed it out--although I should have remembered this, because I had already written about it in an old high school paper of mine, in which I mentioned that Stokely Carmichael replaced John Lewis as head of SNCC in 1966--not 1964).
Stokely Carmichael is better remembered today as the radical voice of the movement, which is obviously why the writers made the switch, but I think the omission of John Lewis was an unfortunate slight to John Lewis.

The FBI's infamous letter to Martin Luther King I already discussed in my review of J. Edgar, in which I quoted a historian who said that the letter was almost certainly delegated, and not written by J. Edgar Hoover personally.  I'll repeat here what I said then:

 I can understand why the movie wanted to have J. Edgar Hoover himself dictate the letter—from a cinematic standpoint that scene of J. Edgar Hoover yelling out that letter to his secretary makes for much more interesting viewing than a scene of Hoover delegating the task.
            And yet, from a historical standpoint, it’s worth remembering the letter was delegated, because it means that the FBI’s attempts to destroy Martin Luther King wasn’t just limited to Hoover’s personal idiosyncrasies, but was something the whole organization was responsible for.
* Finally, on the Vietnam War:
--the movie portrays Robert McNamara as the one pressing Lyndon Johnson on Vietnam.  However, recorded audio tapes from the white house show that it was the other way around--Lyndon Johnson was the one hounding Robert McNamara to make Vietnam more of an issue--see the documentary film The Fog of War.  Or just listen to this 2 minute youtube video here.



--the movie portrays the Gulf of Tonkin incident as an unwelcome complication to Johnson's plans.  However, Daniel Ellsberg in The Most Dangerous Man in America reveals that the White House and the Pentagon had already determined they were going to escalate in Vietnam, and were just looking for something they could use as an excuse.

Addendum:
One further thought which occurs to me belatedly: Watching this movie makes you realize what a struggle it was to get the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, which makes me angry once again that the Supreme Court struck down the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky The Cold War

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